Australian Army Officer in South Sudan
31 October 2016
A 26-year veteran of numerous conflicts, Australian Army officer Colonel John Carey is a long way from home, currently working out of a remote United Nations outpost in South Sudan.
"I'm here as both the Commander of the Australian Contingent and the Senior Military Liaison Officer for the eastern half the country as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)", Col Carey said.
"My UN job is much like a military observer. I work with a team of Military Liaison Officers from around the world and interact with members from armed groups such the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and the South Sudan Democratic Movement – Cobra Faction (SSDM/CF)."
Military Liaison Officers plan and lead outreach patrols into areas affected by the Civil War, engage with military and civilian leadership, gather and assess information, monitor human rights and set the conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in South Sudan.
"This could include accompanying UN convoys or riverine patrols, identifying and releasing child soldiers back to their villages, negotiating flight safety assurances, safe passage and freedom of movement with local tribal chiefs and dealing with government or opposition soldiers at checkpoints." Col Carey explained.
"Many of these patrols are inserted and extracted via UN helicopters piloted by Rwandan, Sri Lankan and Ukrainian aircrew into remote parts of Jonglei State,"
"The patrols are generally up to four days in duration and assist with establishing relationships with military authorities, non-government organisations and the local community."
"The team live amongst the people and through building and maintaining relationships identify threats and assess conditions to determine needs for future humanitarian projects."
The current Military Liaison Officers of UNMISS include representatives from Norway, Sweden, NZ, Canada, Romania, Germany, Namibia, Moldova, Russia, Paraguay, Kenya, India, Nepal, Guatemala and Brazil.
When not on patrol, Col Carey works closely with the Australian Contingent and said that working with people from all types of backgrounds was the aspect of his role he most enjoyed.
"Africa is a challenging environment and not many people back home have served on this continent or understand its problems," he said.
"Many locals we talk to often mention the 'curse of Africa', being the perpetual ethnic and tribal discord, violence and political instability and dysfunction which have sadly characterised so many African countries in the last fifty years."
"I am especially proud of the fine work each of our ADF personnel are doing in this dangerous and hazardous environment. The unique challenges of South Sudan and UNMISS offer individuals considerable value that is demanding and very different to other more well-known deployments."
Australia is one of 121 nations contributing to UNMISS, with a contribution of up to 25 ADF personnel, including UN Staff Officers, Military Liaison Officers, a Japanese Liaison Officer and Japanese Linguist, supported by a National Support Element.